President Vladimir Putin warned the West not to cross the Kremlin’s security “red line” as the U.S. and the U.K. said any Russian incursion into Ukraine would trigger serious diplomatic and economic responses.
Expansion of western military infrastructure into Ukraine would leave Moscow exposed to the risk of attack in as little as five minutes “if supersonic weapons are placed there,” Putin said Tuesday in a videoconference at the VTB Russia Calling! forum in Moscow. “Then we will have to create something similar to those who threaten us and we can already do that now.”
Russia will have a sea-based hypersonic missile capable of traveling at nine times the speed of sound from the start of the year and “the flight time to those who give out such orders will also be five minutes,” Putin said. “This creation of such threats for us is the red line.”
The Kremlin leader showed little sign of heeding the growing chorus of calls from the U.S. and its allies to dial back tensions over Ukraine. The U.S. has shared intelligence with European allies showing Russia massing troops and artillery near its border with Ukraine, saying the deployment could be a prelude for an invasion early next year. Putin has denied any such plan and accuses the U.S. and its allies of provocative actions against Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday at a news conference in Latvia ahead of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting that any Russian attack “will trigger serious consequences.”
Boris Johnson’s government issued its own warning that the U.K. would use “all diplomatic and economic levers at our disposal” to avert the threat.
“We will support Ukraine and stability in the Western Balkans, to safeguard their security and build their economic resilience,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement Tuesday, as she attends the NATO meeting in Latvia.
“We have seen this playbook from the Kremlin before when Russia falsely claimed its illegal annexation of Crimea was a response to NATO aggression,” she said. “Any suggestion that NATO is provoking the Russians is clearly false.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said before the Riga talks that Russia would pay “a high price” if it used force against Ukraine. Asked by reporters what he meant and whether he ruled out military intervention, Stoltenberg said: “We have different options.”
He mentioned the use, in answer to Russia’s earlier resorting to military force against Ukraine, of “heavy economic and financial sanctions, political sanctions, and also the fact that we have increased our presence here, in the region, both in the Black Sea region and in the Baltic region, in the air, on land and at sea.”
Putin noted that the U.S. and its allies raised similar concerns about a Russian build-up of forces near Ukraine in the spring, though nothing came of it.
The question isn’t whether to fight or not, but “to take into account the security interests of all participants in international activities,” Putin said. “If we sincerely strive for this, then no one will experience any threats.”
Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and has backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict with the Kyiv government that has killed more than 13,000 so far.
The European Union said it is working to arrange a meeting between the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with a spokesperson warning Russia against violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity.